- Dustin Salomon's 2016 book Building Shooters is subtitled Applying Neuroscience Research to Tactical System
Training Design and Training Delivery. The latter part of the book is mostly oriented toward restructuring firearms
training as it is conducted in a relatively extended academy setting.
- Most people reading this will be taking training in the private sector - typically on a condensed time frame of one day
to four or five days - where some of the proposed training model would not apply. This difference will be most crucial
for those who will be developing the basic skills and what follows is intended to help overcome the contradiction.
- First, the simplified model of how learning takes place and gets "cemented" or consolidated:
- New information or skills are recorded in short-term memory, which is similar to the RAM (Random Access Memory) in
your computer. However, even recording in short-term memory requires that the new material get past the brain's
unconscious "filtering" of all the stimuli to which it is subjected. One factor influencing retention in short-term
memory is that there is a limit to how much information can be retained without new information replacing earlier
- In order for learned information or skills to be retained, they must be consolidated into long-term memory. For
our purposes, long-term memory is divided into procedural memory - where physical skills that don't require
conscious thought are stored - and declarative memory - where information (data) and physical skills that do
require conscious thought are stored. The real challenge is consolidating long-term procedural memory.
Consolidation can be impaired or enhanced by different factors:
- Fear or stress will generally impair consolidation into long-term memory.
- Presentation of too much material per session - particularly alternative or conflicting techniques - will impair
consolidation into long-term memory.
- "Priming" - careful exposure before the training session - will improve consolidation into long-term memory.
- "Off-line time" - both awake and asleep - will improve consolidation into long-term memory.
- With a normal sleep schedule, teaching the crucial material in the afternoon will improve consolidation into long-term
- So here's the take-home message: If the instructor with whom you will train can recommend some reading material,
preferably illustrated, you can prepare in advance for at least some of the skills that will be taught in the
- Pick one or two skills, such as proper grasp of the gun and sight alignment/sight picture, and practice them safely, in dry-fire mode, in the afternoon or early evening.
- Review those skills the following day, then add one or two more, such as trigger manipulation and stance.
- I'm not really a video fan but I imagine that the same thing can be done with an instructional video but that it would
work better viewing it only through each skill being prepped that day.
- Building on the work of Salomon and many others - particularly neuroscientists - and with the insight of dealing with his
own neurological issues - Mike Ochsner synthesized a system that is oriented primarily toward home study.
- "Ox" bases his system on a series of dry-fire drills, with the optional inclusion of Airsoft or pellet guns, done just a
few minutes a day. It is designed for both faster and more lasting consolidation of the procedural learning.
- Ox recognizes the role of traditional "block-and-silo" training in learning the fundamentals of safe gun handling and basic
operation but encourages only a small amount of live fire, to confirm that the dry fire is being conducted correctly.
- Will most readers of his book Real World Gunfight
Training take it all the way to scoring hits while running laterally?
- Issues of age and physical condition aside, how far a reader chooses to take it may depend on threat assessment:
- Those expecting the sort of dumb crook that Tom Givens describes in most of his students' shooting incidents in Memphis -
single assailants who made their intentions known at distances around five yards, allowing a conventional draw to the
two-handed, flat-footed shooting position that they learned in their basic concealed-carry course - may not choose to
push the envelope all the way.
- Those who've seen photos or videos of the vehicle-mobile, multi-assailant carjackings that have come into vogue in Chicago
may welcome the encouragement to push it that far.
- Either way - particularly in light of the low price of the book - the concentration on dry fire alone makes the system
attractive in these times of ammunition scarcity.
- Even without these insights, when I offered live training, I noticed that students who had read my book before the
course seemed to absorb the skills taught on the range much more readily.
- Additionally, during the last years that I offered live training, I "issued" each student an inexpensive 3" x 5" spiral
notebook. On each break between the exercises on the range, I had them sit down and write notes on what they'd just
learned, so that they could practice the techniques on their own, at later times. Subsequent studies have claimed that
taking handwritten notes enhances at least declarative learning. I can't prove it, at this point, but I like to think
that it may also enhance procedural learning.
- For comparison, check out this article on how Desirable
Difficulties in Training Improve Skill Retention.